Un-winterizing

Sunday March 21st 2021

What a great warm spring like day, with temperatures in the low 20’s (high 60’sF) it almost feels like late April, but alas we know its not, so today I’m starting the process of un-winterizing our coach. This should be a fairy simple process, not nearly as difficult as the winterizing process but I will also the time to complete a number of maintenance tasks as well. And because we are not moving back into the coach for a couple of weeks it gives us a chance to do a real good spring cleaning as we proceed. But my objective first is to flush the anti-freeze from the water system, chlorinate the fresh water holding tank, and restart the boiler system system on the coach. I expect this will take the best part of a couple of days if nothing goes wrong and we have had no freezing damage over the winter.

First I need to get a water source, because the park water system is still shut down we will have to run a hose from the park store to the coach, with this I will be able to flush the anti-freeze from all the water lines one by one, we are lucky to have a water distribution center from the main supply through a valve to each faucet on the coach. So one by one I will be able to flush each line and charge it with fresh water. I also want to add chlorine to the fresh water tank and confirm that we have at least 100 ppm (parts per million) of chlorine to ensure proper sanitization. Remember adding too much will make the job of flushing the system much longer and the 100 ppm is what the health boards in Ontario recommend for sanitization.

As always I will have a pressure regulator on the supply line, I know from working at the park, for the last two years that the pressure is set at 60 psi (pounds per square inch) but I have always tried to keep our coach system at the 50 psi mark. We have seen parks with pressure close to 100 psi, so better a little safe than a little sorry. So as the water pressure is added the first check will be with the coaches back flow valve, its the valve that most people don’t know even exists, but it what stops the water from exiting the pressure fill when you turn on your internal water pump. Next I will start by flushing the low drain points and ensuring the valves seal properly, followed by the tank fill valve, this is the valve that directs the water into our 380 liter fresh water holding tank with the dump valve on the fresh water tank open, I’m just looking for water to flow through the tank. At this point I will remove the supply line and add in the chlorine into the water line. Not the easiest task but I have found by emptying the water from the end of the hose and pouring the chlorine into the hose, reattaching and turning on the water to flushes the chlorine into the system.

Now I know your next question how much chlorine do I need to add? Great question, but the answer is a little difficult, because what strength is your chlorine supply? Your average bottle of Clorox bleach is about 5% chlorine by volume, some of the cheap Chinese bleaches are as low as 3% bleach, or you will see some strong bleaches that are 6% or commercial sanitizers run either 6% or 12% chlorine while swimming pool chlorine runs near 65%. So now you can understand why its hard to say how much you need to add, I have found by experience that one cup of 12% sanitizer is usually more than enough so a couple of cups of a good bleach is most likely good for our 380 liter fresh water tank. So two cups of bleach and add water till it is full, then I let it sit until I flush the other lines of their anti-freeze.

So here is where the plan takes a turn south. Last fall was the first time (and the last I hope) that I have winterized our coach and it was some what disappointed that there was no by pass on the water heater. Anyone from a cold climate that has winterized their RV will be aware that there are usually a collection of valves at the water heater to stop the flow into and out of the heater and allow the water to bypass the heater. This means that there is no need to fill the the heater with antifreeze which would take a lot of flushing to clear in the spring as well as the cost of the extra 6 to 8 gallons of antifreeze. Well our coach had no bypass so in the fall, I just removed the intake and outlet pipes off of the heater and placed a short nipple between them to effectively bypass the heater. It worked but made fore a long and messy task, not to mention difficult process so this spring as well, so I plumbed in the required valves to make the task much easier when winterizing is next required. This stretched into a multiple hour task by the time all was said and done.

Now I’m off to each individual line to flush until they run clear, and after all the individual lines have been flushed off to the pump bay to flush water through the onboard pumping system, including the lines to the ice maker which I will leave open when done. Because the water runs into the back off our NorCold refrigerator they are exposed to outdoor temperatures which will get below freezing again before we move back into the coach. I will add the new water filters for the ice maker after we have moved back into the coach, sometime in April.

Now with the water system refilled, the next under taking was to fire up the boiler. Now as much as I think the boiler system is great, it does have it’s moments. Now for those of you that can’t quite get their head around whole boiler thing, it is a very common system on yachts, as it allows hot water to be pumped to different areas of the coach, with separate thermostats for each zone. But the system is not without some issues, it burns furnace oil (diesel fuel) which is drawn from our coach tank, it has a circulation pump, for the warming fluid (antifreeze), the unit itself has a fuel pump, an air compressor, a venting fan, along with an igniter and multiple control sensors, and a fuel nozzle that atomizes the fuel to be burnt.

So in the simplest of explanation, there are a lot of things that can go wrong! So regularly I clean the fuel nozzle, to get the best results, well this spring I was getting a fault code of “flame out” which when I turn to the manual it lists about a dozen different possible causes, so it just boils down to a process of elimination until you find the culprit that is causing the issue. One of the possibilities was a leak in the fuel line, now most would think of a leak as the fuel leaking out … but with this system it’s more about air being drawn into the system. And with some exploration, and I found a small crack in a fuel line at fuel filter to the boiler. Yes that would be the same fuel filter that I changed last fall, so most likely was a self inflicted problem. But after the fuel line is repaired the boiler is up and running with no more codes, the true test is being left for a day or two and still operating properly.

Although we would not recommend leaving you heater running when your not in your rig, with our coach we need the boiler running to protect our coach from a spring freeze. Because of this style of system we have a thermostat and a heater radiator in the wet bay to protect our plumbing system from freezing, so when triggered the boiler comes to life to supply heat to the wet bay.

With the water on, the boiler (heat) running, all that was left was to put out the slide, level the coach, and now to turn on the refrigerator to cool it down ready for our move in. Then all that is left is the normal spring cleaning and vacuuming.

It’s now a week later, because this process has certainly taken more time that I had hoped, but the coach is ready for our move in. The temperatures overnight are dropping below freezing, and I can see from my computer screen that allows me to monitor the systems on the coach that the boiler has kicked in to heat the wet bay just as it was designed. So with Easter weekend coming up this coming weekend, I suspect we will start moving back home soon.

As Always, stay safe, wear your mask, and get a vaccine when it’s your turn!

Categories: Personal

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